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Full text of "The Gay Genius"

FRIEND OF THE PEOPLE                      281

third evaluation, but that such forgiveness should not cover cases oŁ
people who had accepted the government's evaluation at once. There
was a subtle distinction between the two, for these bureaucrats thought
that people who had at once accepted the government's evaluation had
recognised its justice, and therefore their property should not be re-
turned. Su Tungpo was indignant over such fine distinctions, and con-
tended that this was not the original intention of the edict,

But this was only one example of the way in which the people were
cheated of their rights and benefits. Su Tungpo pointed out instance
after instance where the edict had been misinterpreted and mis-
applied, all to the disadvantage of the people. His great argument was
that the last drop of the people's blood had already been squeezed, and
he did not see what purpose it served for the government to keep cm
trying to collect twenty-year-old bad debts from people who could not
pay anyway. For instance, out of 1,433 cases of people involved in
indebtedness to the government in the wine business, after twenty years
of government efforts to collect the debts, still 404 cases remained of
people who had fled" and who were afraid to return home. The sum
involved was only $13,400. What good did it do the government to
keep these people from their homes just to collect $13,400? Besides, if
this state of things continued, the government was never going to get
rfiat $13,400. Should not the government rather earn the gratitude cf
the people by cancelling such debts at once?

After waiting 108 days in vain for a reply, in September of that year
he followed up with another memorandum, asking what had happened
to the first one. This was a confidential letter to the Empress, and on
December 8 the Empress passed the letter on to the premier's office with
the order that action be taken. On December 19 the ministry of the
interior sent Su Tungpo a letter saying that the memorandum had been
mislaid and he was to send a duplicate. On January 9,1091, Su Tungpo
sent the duplicate with the additional comment that for the last twenty
years trade had been paralysed and that the government could Increase
its revenue only by taking measures to restore the general credit and
cash reserves of the people. That was the end of that petition. Almost
two years elapsed, and still nothing was done about it.

Meanwhile, one failure of crops foDowed another in the kke district
and in Hangchow, and the famine reached catastrophic proportions in
1092. Now, according to Su Tungpo's report, over half the popula-
tion of the districts of Soochow, Huchow (Wushing), and Shiuchow
(Kiashing) died. Great hordes of roaming refugees were coming across
the Yangtse. Although the water was beginning to subside, all mark-
ings and boundaries of the fields had been wiped out. "There are farms
without owners, and owners without food. Those who have food are
without seeds, and those who have seeds have no buffaloes. Those who